Where to stay in Cebu, Philippines? We asked locals working in tourism
Cebu is an island province of the Philippines, located in the Central Visayas region.
The island has a great mix of local culture, nature, and with its long history it has plenty of stories to tell to tell.
This article will help you decide where to stay in Cebu, Philippines.
You’ll likely be arriving by plane through the Mactan-Cebu International Airport or by ferry through Cebu International Port.
There’s a lot of things to do and places to explore on the island, so we’re going to give you a couple of recommended areas and reasons why to pick them.
This way you can choose the best location, based on your vacation preferences.
|Best area for first-timers||Cebu City|
|Best area for longterm stay||Mandaue City|
|Best area for nature/bohemian||Oslob|
Transportation, Getting around Cebu
- Uber and similar services do exist in the metropolitan areas of Cebu, but drivers may be reluctant to dive you outside the city if you wish to see something else.
- Renting a bike is always a good option, although officially you’d need an international drivers license, locals won’t mind renting it to you even if you don’t, just remember that you don’t have insurance this way
- Taxi is available both in and out of cities, just remember to ask the driver to use a taximeter, or try to bargain if you’re covering longer distances or going to tourist landmarks – where they can pick up another passenger
- Motorbike Taxi aka Habal-Habal is a fast, cheap and widely available service in Cebu
- Jeepney is a form of a bus that can be caught throughout residential areas – it’s cheap, stops at popular areas and recognizable by crazy colors, but also known to be overcrowded
The best area to stay for first-timers – Cebu City
The most developed part of the island is usually the best for tourists on their first visit to any destination, and Cebu is no exception.
Cebu City itself has many attractions, and its central location allows for the best navigation to the rest of the island.
Where to go and what to see in Cebu City?
One of the most important historic landmarks on the island. It’s a Christian cross, that was planted by the colonizers by Ferdinand Magellan, after arriving in Cebu in March of 1521. The cross is sitting in a small chapel next to the Basilica Menor del Santo Nino – the oldest Catholic church in the Philippines – on the famous Magallanes Street. The sign inside states that the original cross is encased in the wooden one that can be seen on display, and some local legends say the original cross had miraculous powers.
Sky Experience Adventure
The rooftop of the Crown Regency hotel holds more than just great views of the city. It houses a unique theme park that’s all about fully experiencing the thrill of being at nearly 500 feet (150 meters) off the ground. What you’ll find are things such as building-to-building zip lines, a rollercoaster around the roof, a climbing wall on top of the building, as well as an observatory among other things.
Casa Gorordo Museum
Built in the 19th century, the house used to belong to the very first Cebuano bishop, Juan Gorordo. Inside the house, you will be able to see how a typical 18-19 century household in Cebu looked like. Regular items like furniture, paintings, clothing, wooden tables and cabinets, cutlery, religious symbols and similar. The museum also has a cafe in which you can try some local specialties, such as Sikwate – a type of bittersweet hot chocolate – as well as a souvenir shop.
Where to stay in Cebu City, our top AirBnB’s
Affordable price range: The Modern Renaissance – great looking apartment in a central location
Moderate price range: Double-Balcony Apartment – fully furnished with pool and gym in the condo
Luxury price range: Designer’s Corner Crib – very spacious amazing interior with lots of commodities
The best area for long term stay – Mandaue City
Right next to Cebu City is the prosperous Mandaue city. We chose this area as the best option for those who want a long term stay for a couple of reasons:
- Central location
- Access to both Cebu City and Mactan (airport)
- Residential areas typical to cities
- Modern entertainment
Where to go and what to see in Mandaue City?
Upside Down World
This unique attraction consists of multiple rooms made to appear upside down. Explore the different rooms and make use of the optical illusion to take some goofy pictures.
Marcelo Fernan Bridge
The bridge connects Mandaue City to neighboring Lapu-Lapu City on Mactan Island. It is around 4 000 feet (1 200 meters) long and has pedestrian sidewalks on both sides, so you can take a walk or ride a bike over it. Once you pass to the Mactan side, you can take a rest in the Millenium Park, located underneath the bridge. Apart from enjoying the view pier and sitting on the benches, you can relax in some of the cafes available in the park.
Skywater Park Cebu
If you search up this attraction and think it looks like a place made for children, think again. This waterpark on top of JCenter Mall not only contains slides and pools, but also things like jacuzzies, sunbeds, spa, cafe and dining area, and more. At night, the rooftop becomes a place for nightlife. It houses things such as live performances, night swimming, and foam parties.
Where to stay in Mandaue, our top AirBnB’s
Affordable price range: Apple One Banawa Heights – nice apartment with lots of commodities in the condo area
Medium price range: Yellow House – beautiful apartment completely verified by AirBnB
Luxury price range: Copenhagen Residence Luxury Loft2 – super-modern residential area, apartment on 2 stories and amazingly furnished
Where to stay in Cebu, nature/bohemian – Oslob
Down south on the island of Cebu is the area of Oslob, a popular tourist destination for nature lovers and those looking to escape the busy city streets.
The area is completely covered by forest on one side and is open to the ocean on the other, offering plenty of hiking and swimming spots.
Where to go and what to see in Oslob?
The Tumalog waterfall, also known as Toslob falls in a known tourist attraction. The place is surrounded by dense forest, which makes for some beautiful green scenery. The bottom of the waterfall creates a wading pool in which you can take a swim. The best way to get to the area, unless you’ve rented a bike, is motor taxis. Be warned that there is an entry fee of 20 pesos.
Diving with Whale Sharks
The most popular tourist attraction in Oslob has got to be diving (or snorkeling) with whale sharks just off the coast. These friendly giants are completely harmless to people, as they feed on planktons and small species of fish and squid, and similar. Younger whale sharks are also known for being playful, so they will “invite” you to tag along with them for a swim. Although this is a unique way to interact with nature, humans are still an unknown species to whale sharks, so intentionally bothering them can be frightening. We recommend observing and only coming in close and touching if you notice they don’t mind your presence.
Off the coast of Oslob is a privately owned island and resort of Sumilon, as such there is a small entry fee, usually around 50 pesos. But what you get for it is one of the best and unique beach experiences in Cebu. The small beach gets narrower throughout the day due to tides, until it gets completely submerged, so it’s best to come early in the morning and watch as it happens. The water is sparkling clear and offers some great underwater coral landscapes to explore. If you want, you can visit the Bluewater Sumilon resort for a drink or dipping into their waterpark.
Where to stay in Oslob, our top AirBnB’s
Affordable price range: Sunny Apartment – close to the beach and has a small pool outside
Moderate price range: Balai ni Sonia – entire bungalow close to main attractions
Luxury price range: Beachhouse near Whalesharks – luxury house with ocean view and beach in front, location close to main attractions